When Michael Ray heard the news that his single, “Whiskey And Rain” had gone No. 1, he wasn’t partying in a bar or performing on a stage, instead, he was in therapy.
During an interview with Country Now and other reporters, Ray got “raw and real” sharing that he had just pulled up to the Arizona facility when he was made aware that he had just earned his fourth No. 1 on country radio. The timing of everything hit him all at once. “It was crazy,” he said.
“I got to be with some incredible people that really helped me out a lot and I found out there it was going No. 1 the first week; That it was officially going to be my first ever multi-week No. 1.”
“It was like a Rocky moment. We did it, holy crap,” he added. “And we did it better than we expected.”
Ray stayed in Arizona for seven days to work on becoming the best version of himself, after the past few years left him feeling a bit out of place.
“The beginning of the year, the last two years, have been hard for everybody,” he began. “I felt like everybody knew this year was going to be the year that we all thought last year was gonna be, but it turned out not to…So, some days you’re like, ‘yeah it’s good to be back’ and other times it was a headache. So, I just wanted to get myself right.”
“Whiskey And Rain” was co-penned by Josh Thompson and Jesse Frasure, and later served as the lead single from Ray’s seven-song EP, Higher Education. At the time it was written, the in-person aspect of the music industry was at a standstill, but even through all the chaos, he knew this song was “special.”
“We cut it during Covid – nobody was in the studios together, and touring stopped, radio shows stopped, there is no promotion, no playing this for fans. I’m doing Honkytonk Tuesday, here’s some Instagrams – I mean, how many times can you go live on something before it gets too much? It kept climbing but my team knew from the jump street that we had something special. Never let down, never wavered, never once. They were like ‘this is a career song and it’s gonna happen.’”
The Florida native can still recall the first time he heard it after his manager sent it to him and the instant sparks of inspiration that came to him for the rest of the tracks on Higher Education. Without even hearing the first lyrics, Ray knew it was exactly what he needed in a song.
“She was like ‘this is it,’ so as soon as I heard that riff – just as it grew too – sometimes you hear a song and everything’s great but the hook kind of falls off. It was so good I was like ‘please don’t suck, please don’t suck’ and then I heard ‘Whiskey And Rain,’ and I was like ‘I’m in.’ It just felt like it was a classic, but it also really embodied everything I was wanting to do on this record right at the first single.”
This was an emotional milestone for the “Holy Water” singer, as he understands the gravity that a No. 1 holds for artists. It was also especially meaningful simply because it was something good that came from a difficult time.
“I saw a statistic one day years ago that said it was harder to be a starting pitcher in the MLB than it is to have a No. 1 song. And there’s other statistics that you can look up that really puts it in perspective how blessed we are to do this. It’s like catching lightning in a jar one time.”